As the last vestiges of winter let go of their hold on fields and gardens, my imagination wanders to the vibrant blooms of spring which offer so much delight. I love a good garden, one that overflows with riotous color or savory vegetables that will grace our table. What intrigues me the most about "natural" or organic gardening is how compost, that mixture of stinky, decayed foodstuffs, can contribute to creations of such beauty. How can that icky, messy mixture that no one wants be so good for a garden?
Aren't our lives a lot like that? Our goal in life seems to be to design a life for ourselves characterized by great success, loving relationships and personal happiness. The garden of our life can be a beautiful thing. However, the radiance with which it shines doesn't necessarily come from the conscious things we bring into it or achieve. It is full and vibrant because of the compost of our lives.
The compost of daily life contains all of the bad luck, heartbreak, loss and disappointment that we might experience. Despite the fact that we do not invite these into our lives (in fact, we do everything possible to avoid them), they appear and change the course of our days—forever. These bad times or tragedies become the fertilizer from which we grow our true selves; they are the compost from which our lives blossom and flourish, whether we like it or not.
When I think back upon my own life, my compost heap is pretty big. If I were to make a list, naming each ingredient, each life event, I would not have wished any of those on myself. If I could have saved myself the trouble of experiencing them, I would have. But that was not to be. Each one of us is given life events that we would most certainly reject if we were given the option. Life does not ask us permission ahead of time if we want to go through a particular crisis; instead it visits itself upon us, disguised as hardship or tragedy, knowing full well it will serve us later in life as compost.
What is the compost of your life? What experiences have you had that were difficult to deal with but made you a better person? A stronger person? A person of compassion or faith?
Take a few moments and list them on paper.
Now, on the opposite side of the paper, reflect for a moment (longer if necessary) getting in touch with how that event/challenge changed you for the better. Write down how you have evolved physically, emotionally, or spiritually because of that experience. In gardening terms, what blossoms were birthed in you because of the fertilizer that life handed you?
I'll offer a few samples from my own compost pile:
•Years of stress-related illness resulted in a newfound appreciation for good health and a strong desire to create that for myself (through eating organic foods, proper rest and a regular yoga or walking routine).
•Incessant worry (which culminated in anxiety) developed into a daily focus on relaxation and use of breathing exercises to maintain a sense of inner peace.
And, like you, there are many more of a very personal nature, rooted in loss and grief, which resulted in a deepening of my faith in a Higher Power and in the greater purpose of life.
As I was experiencing many of these things, I felt like I wanted to run away from my own life. It felt really bad to be in my shoes, given the circumstances. It certainly didn't feel like I was growing the garden of my life; it felt like I was waist high in compost, hating every minute of it. What needs to occur within each of us when we find ourselves wallowing in the muck of it all is to shift our perception, remaining mindful that there will be an end to all of this, that there is a higher purpose, and that we will blossom as a result.
Melody Beattie offers wonderful wisdom for this leg of the journey in her classic book, The Language of Letting Go. It is when we hang on so tightly to life, holding pictures of how our life is supposed to be that we can use daily guidance through affirmations such as these. She writes, "Today, I will not run from myself, my circumstances, or my feelings. I will be open to myself, others, my Higher Power, and life. I will trust that by facing today to the best of my ability, I will acquire the skills I need to face tomorrow."
In other words, tending the garden of our lives, compost and all, will result in a brighter tomorrow and a brighter version of each one of us. The challenge seems to be to forge ahead despite adversity, focus on the bigger picture, and trust in the outcome.
I also know that personal growth takes time; it takes time for wounds to heal and a greater perspective of the experience to be gained. The best gardeners know that it takes precious days and months to grow all those glorious flowers and delectable vegetables. A bounteous crop does not happen overnight. Maybe we would be better served to heed the wise counsel of Ralph Waldo Emerson who wrote, "Adopt the pace of nature, her secret is patience."
I am certain that with patience and great trust in the process, we can begin to see our compost piles for what they really are: the stuff of which life is made. And beautiful lives they can be!
When it becomes difficult to wade through the compost of your own life do you have a sufficient support system? Do you have someone who will stay by your side and point you in the direction of your true self? This is the purpose I serve as a Spiritual Director/Mentor; to help you remember who you really are and to bear witness to your divine unfolding—especially through adversity. Learn more about how we can journey together to give you the support and guidance you need for navigating through difficult times. I would be blessed to serve you in this way. Contact me here.
I spent the early hours of the morning with a Deva.
At first light, before turning on the computer, I turn on Pandora, choosing my Deva Premal radio station. Chant, lilting and lyrical—words whose meaning are unknown to me even in Sanskrit kindle my inner light.
Choosing to spend time with Deva is just one way I might choose to to enter the day more mindfully. "Choose" is the pivotal word here. Mindfully choose. Any of us can do this.
I'm a firm believer that the way we choose to spend our time first thing in the morning sets the tone for our entire day. As we come out of sleep, we are vulnerable, open, receptive. It's the best time of day to honor the wide open spaces within us and fill them with something that is spiritually healthy.
Or not fill them at all, but allow them to remain empty and still.
Research backs this up, by the way.
Studies have shown that people who spend some time in the early morning engaged in a contemplative-type practice are calmer throughout the day.
Most of us are conditioned to hit the pavement running. Hurriedly getting kids off to school or ourselves to work, or beginning to check things off our lengthy To-Do List, can start the cortisol stream—releasing stress hormones—and before we know it we're in full-fledged get-it-done, survival mode. Stress builds.
Starting our day this way tends to make us feel off-balance immediately. When more small stressors are added throughout the day, it doesn't take much to tip the scales and we can easily dive headlong into overwhelm, anxiousness, or any number of wildish emotions.
This is because we have no foundation of inner calm to build our day upon.
If we were to dedicate 5-30 minutes in the morning to stabilizing our body/mind, our days would feel completely different. An early morning spiritual practice of some kind also stimulates the production of oxytocins and other feel good hormones and, truthfully, who wouldn't more of that? I'd much prefer to enter my work day feeling calm inside rather than chaotic.
Choice ... it all comes down to choice.
I believe that one of the kindest, most spiritually healthy things we can do for ourselves, is to begin our day with practices that calm and center us. Suitably centered from 5-30 minutes in the morning, we lay a foundation of ease that can stand up to stressful onslaughts throughout the day.
So this morning I spent time with Deva. Tomorrow it might be His Holiness the Dalai Lama or Hildegard or Peter Kater. It doesn't matter which one I choose, only that I do. The inner peace that is created in the wee hours is the lifeblood of my day. May it be so for you too.
Make a new early morning choice, will you? Invite something into your wee hours that nourishes you—body, mind and spirit.
As Rumi taught, "What nine months of attention does for an embryo, Forty Early Mornings will do for your gradually growing wholeness."
Even if you have to get up 15-minutes early, it's well worth the effort. Your whole and holy self will benefit ... all day long.
Today, I'm announcing my new ASM program: "Advanced Spiritual Mentoring." More honoring of my joy and passion to personally journey with people, one-on-one, as they navigate the ups and downs of daily life. If you're someone who's been "on the path" for a long time, if you find yourself in a time of difficulty, or if you know the value of having consistent contact and support from a "seasoned other," consider Advanced Spiritual Mentoring with me. I'd like to spend quality time with you.
is a touchpoint. a resting place, a "remembering" of who we really are and how we can best live—kindly and compassionately with ourselves and others.
Janice Lynne Lundy, DMin
is an educator, interspiritual director/guide and retreat leader who has been pointing people back toward the Sacred for more than twenty years. She is the author of several spiritual growth books, including Your Truest Self, My Deepest Me and Portable Peace., and is the co-founder and co-director of the Spiritual Guidance Training Institute.